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The Renku Sessions: Pilgrims' Stride 35

renkuchainWelcome to The Renku Sessions. Renku is a participatory literary game, following a set of rules that are implemented by the leader of the session. If you would like to learn more about renku go here. And if you would like to see a sample of a complete renku go here.

I’m John Stevenson, and I will serve as your guide for this session, a thirty-six verse (kasen) renku. I have supplied the opening verse (hokku) and each week I will select an additional verse from among those submitted prior to the Tuesday deadline.

This may have been our most productive week. We have been gifted with one-hundred-twenty-three offers, from twenty-two poets, including some first time contributors. And we have also benefited from a discussion about kigo that I trust has proven educational for all of us. I must admit that I had the spring kigo “ants emerge” in mind when looking at the offers for verse thirty-four and, as a consequence, I was predisposed to read the verse that I selected as relating to this image. I do see, based upon the subsequent discussion, that a different reading is quite as likely. Live and learn!

There were so many interesting offers this time. I can’t list them all but here is a sample:

blossoms
lying on both sides
of the peace wall

    –Marion Clarke

placing her lei
of dandelions
on the garden gnome

    –Maureen Virchau

Cherry blossoms raise
a ladder of fragrances
from earth to stars

    –Vasile Moldovan

scented soaps for one
who views the blossoms
from her room

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

a single blossom
like a hand print
on the window

    –joel irusta

not yet
brushing blossoms
off the baby’s toes

    –Peg Duthie

not believing
until I stood beneath
the cherry trees

    –Sandra Simpson

at the sawmill
cherry blossoms mix
with sawdust

    –Carole MacRury

first fine day
and already
blossom rain

    –Christopher Patchel

a Burmese harp
tuned to the key
of fallen blossoms

    –Lorin Ford

the sound of oars
as rowers glide among
drifting petals

    –Carmen Sterba

how much further
this fiddlehead
can still unfurl

    –Scott Mason

And poets not yet included in our renku had much to offer:

Yuccas bloom
among broken shards
of glass

    –John Armstrong

blossoms at the gate
so many
I’m shut out

    –Todd Treloar-Rhodes

among dandelions
a wormhole away
China beckons

    –jerry julius

overcome by
the scent of orchids
filling the Town Hall

    –barbara a. taylor

The verse I have selected is one that I see as relating to the nature of kigo. Whether we are writing a blossom verse, a moon verse, or using season words in any of our links, it is important that the thing be itself. The moon should be the moon and be present – the absence of the moon or an idiom in which the word moon does not refer to the moon itself does not manifest the spirit of a kigo. Whatever blossom we have selected is to be the thing itself and not a plastic version.

Juxtaposed with the preceding verse, which features an interface between two communities, the selected verse does its own interior link and shift by presenting first the reproduced image of blossoms and then the original.

And here is the verse you must link to:

cherries in bloom
on the kitchen wallpaper
and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

Our renku concludes with the next verse, the thirty-sixth. This is not an attempt to say “the end.” In fact, it is important that this verse suggest, instead, a sense of onward movement and optimism . Here are the requirements for verse thirty-six:

  • Spring image
  • Written in two lines, without a cut
  • Linking with the thirty-fifth verse, and only the thirty-fifth verse
  • Shifting widely to a new topic and setting

Add your suggested two-line link below, in the Comments box. You have until midnight EST, Tuesday, November 11, 2014. You may submit as many verses as you like, but please use a new comment box for each one. I will announce my selection for the next (and final) link on Thursday, November 13 here on the blog. There will be a final posting, on November 27, in which I will offer some reflections on our experiment in renku.

What We’ll Be Looking For — Throughout the Session

There are many schematic outlines for a kasen renku. We will be using one set out by Professor Fukuda in his book Introduction to World-linking Renku. It will not be necessary for you to have a copy of this book since instructions will be offered before each verse is solicited.

It is a good idea for those participating in the composition of a renku to make use of the same list of season words. There are a number of these lists available and I intend no judgment of their relative value. For purposes of this session I am suggesting the use of The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words.

Pilgrims’ Stride to Date

comparing maps
to the mountain pass–
pilgrims’ stride

    –John Stevenson

a sun-warmed stone bridge
over snowmelt

    –Billie Wilson

dampened soil
of seed trays
in the glasshouse

    –Margaret Beverland

grandmother’s silverware
polished every monday

    –Polona Oblak

a sonata
on the concert Steinway
played to the moon

    –Lorin Ford

dragonflies hover
by the swaying reeds

    –Karen Cesar

slight hum
of a drone
in fog

    –Alice Frampton

the atmosphere
thick with teenage pheromones

    –Norman Darlington

I stumble
trying to reply
“I plight thee my troth.”

    –Paul MacNeil

thinking of a red wig
during chemo

    –Asni Amin

the woodland
of silent stories
and shadow

    –Alan Summers

he makes a wish
to become real

    –Marion Clarke

each mirror reflects
only the cool moon
rising

    –kris moon

freshly-caught fish
sizzles in the pan

    –Aalix Roake

a wealthy prince
exiled in Nigeria
soliciting my help

    –Christopher Patchel

sugar plum fairy came
and hit the streets…

    –Jennifer Sutherland

a milky nimbus
at dusk
beneath the cherry tree

    –Scott Mason

pulling in spring clouds
with a telephoto lens

    –Dru Philippou

plain truth
of a skylark’s
song

    –Stella Pierides

our yoga instructor
tells us to breathe

    –Priscilla Van Valkenburgh

smoldering dung cakes
burning in the blackened pit
flavors the curry

    –Betty Shropshire

the family’s grudge
celebrates a century

    –batsword

first snowfall
covering little by little
all the dirt

    –Vasile Moldovan

scraping the ice rink
of blood, sweat and tears

    –Carole MacRury

the sting
of a paper cut
on her tongue

    –Terri French

used books signed
for someone special

    –Ellen Grace Olinger

a large voddy tonny
for the woman who may be
his next wife

    –Sandra Simpson

stirring the crowd
with the slur of a slur

    –Maureen Virchau

continents join
under this moon
the bones of my head

    –Patrick Sweeney

the scarecrow reads
renku to the rabbits

    –joel irusta

pickled grapes and walnuts
swaddled in silk
in my messenger bag

    –Peg Duthie

no more wet newspapers
since the online version

    –Carmen Sterba

a gothic revival
emerges
with a single click

    –Marilyn Potter

ants open a crack between
their city and ours

    –Mark Harris

cherries in bloom
on the kitchen wallpaper
and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

This Post Has 159 Comments

  1. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    gathering dust
    from butterfly wings

  2. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    the sound of laughter
    pink in the haze

    – Lorin Ford

  3. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    the sound of laughter
    through the haze

    – Lorin Ford

  4. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    spring grasses
    amongst the graffiti

    – Lorin (channeling Jan Bostok 🙂

  5. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    just one breath
    scatters dandelion seeds

    – Lorin

  6. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    a dandelion’s seed-head
    gone in one puff

    – Lorin

  7. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    heat shimmer rising
    from the port-a-loo

    (well, possibly not. 😉

  8. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    turning over the padi
    a large blue butterfly

    – Sandra Simpson

  9. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    toasting our good fortune
    with cloud-shaped glasses

    – Sandra Simpson

    – Sandra Simpson

  10. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    lying together on the lawn
    we name the clouds

    – Sandra Simpson

    – Sandra Simpson

  11. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    spring lanterns
    light the way home

    – Lorin Ford

  12. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    a whinny and snort
    from the thoroughbred colt

  13. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    one kite soaring
    high above the others

  14. Thank you for your kind words, Marion. It has been a wonderful experience for me, as well. I adore your concept of “listening” to one’s childhood. 🙂
    Yes, many thanks to John Stevenson and to all the talented poets here.

  15. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    one of the seven gods holds
    a red bream under his arm

    –Alan Summers

    n.b. One of the so-called seven gods of good fortune holds a fishing rod and a huge tai under his arm.

    Tai are red bream in Japan.

  16. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    an intrepid pancake
    escapes a shop owner

    –Alan Summers

    n.b.
    A very popular Japanese children’s song is Oyoge! Tai-yaki kun
    (“Swim faster! Young tai-yaki”) is about a pancake that evades a shop owner to go to the sea until it’s caught by a red bream fisherman.

  17. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    fishing for tai
    with a shrimp

    –Alan Summers

    n.b.
    a metaphor for gaining large profit from a very small investment.
    Tai are red bream.

  18. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    the red woman wanting
    of admiration

    –Alan Summers

    In Japan, the word tai is written as akame, or “red woman.”

  19. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    fish islands tighten their flesh
    against the rapid currents

    –Alan Summers

    n.b. A school of red bream is called uojima, or “fish islands”

  20. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    beachcombers lingering
    into sunset

    – Lorin Ford

  21. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    beachcombers linger
    into sunset

    – Lorin Ford

  22. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    a tomato seedling
    defies the last frost

    – Lorin Ford

  23. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    however far I roam
    a butterfly still a butterfly

    – Sandra Simpson

  24. somehow a stray “S” appeared after my first word
    the 6 November entry — Corrected:

    male anoles duel
    with flashing dewlaps

  25. Previously posted verses rewritten to replace “pony” with “colt”:

    a colt’s whinny
    from across the field

    &

    the colt on its back
    rolling from side to side

  26. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    Who took a bite
    from the mulberry tart?

  27. Thanks for the explanation, Lorin. 🙂

    a farmer whistling
    through the lingering day

  28. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    a stroll through pink haze
    to the train station

    – Lorin

  29. Maureen Virchau November 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    a pony’s whinny
    from across the field

    Hi Maureen,
    You’ve picked the glaring non-kigo translation from the kigo list. Even Bill Higginson could let a bad translation through the net, it seems. I guess he wasn’t from a horsey background. 🙂

    * colt, pony (wakagoma, late spring).

    In English, foal designates a very young horse, a colt (male) or a filly (female) may be older but still young horses, but a pony is a small horse of any age. The kigo (Japanese) is in reference to young horses, and it’s a late spring kigo, so though I don’t know the Japanese term, my guess would be that it’s the more recently born horses, foals of about 3 or four months old, that are intended, but ‘foal’ would cover any young horse up to a year old… including young ponies. 😉

    – Lorin

  30. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    the swing seat’s underside
    for all to see

  31. daffodils lining a new trail
    towards the final peak

    I too will really miss this renku – my first ever!

    Thank you to John and everyone who participated 🙂

  32. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    my balloon sets sail
    towards the sunset

  33. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    – Michael Dylan Welch

    hope to see the other side
    of my inland sea

    * * *

    The Great Lakes in North America are referred to as inland seas. I live by Lake Michigan. There’s a Wikipedia article and other sources online, if someone would like more information.

  34. cherries in bloom
    on the kitchen wallpaper
    and outside too

    –Michael Dylan Welch

    something pink
    in my gin and bitters

    🙂

    – Lorin

    (Yes, I know it’s not suitable but couldn’t resist in relation to MDW’s subtle and humorous homage to Basho’s ‘blossoms in the soup, salad, everywhere’ haiku.)

  35. Suggestions:
    Curtains, bathroom wall, kitchen wall, chesterfield, Art Deco, furniture, bedroom wall (I think we once had that) . . . Come on, think!
    Sheets, pillow cases, millions of things!

  36. like children with soap bubbles
    this renku has delighted us

    (thank you John Stevenson and ALL the poets who contributed – this renku has been delightful and truly educational for a beginner like me)

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